A mix of technologies helps energy-saving pioneers drive down their carbon profiles.
When ULI Greenprint set a goal of net zero carbon by 2050 for its collective membership, it was clear that to meet that goal, a real estate portfolio would need to employ a combination of technologies and innovations.
Two ULI Greenprint members have already met the net-zero-carbon goal—Hudson Pacific Properties, a real estate investment trust (REIT) with over 19 million square feet (1.8 million sq m) of office and studio properties, and Kilroy Realty Corporation (KRC), a West Coast REIT with over 14 million square feet (1.3 million sq m) of office and life science space. This is how they did it.
- Energy efficiency: Real-time monitoring systems, LED lighting, variable-frequency drives, and equipment retrofits improve efficiency.
- On-site renewables: Traditional rooftop solar panels are used where possible, as is piloted technology such as buildingintegrated photovoltaics—solar panels built directly into the facade.
- Off-site renewables: Many properties purchase carbon-free electricity from local utilities such as CleanPower SF, Hetch Hetchy Power, Peninsula Clean Energy, and Silicon Valley Clean Energy.
- Renewable energy credits (RECs): By purchasing credits from a wind farm in Texas, the company converted all electricity used by properties it owns and manages to 100 percent renewable sources.
- Carbon offsets: The remainder of the company’s greenhouse gas emissions are offset by verified emission reduction credits from a landfill gas-to-energy project in Illinois; the resulting carbon offsets are Verra Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) certified.
Kilroy Realty Corporation
- Energy efficiency: The company has reduced the energy use of its assets by about 18 percent from 2010 levels, partly as a result of efficiency projects conducted through the Kilroy Innovation Lab.
- On-site solar and batteries: Kilroy installed solar photovoltaics at 15 of its properties totaling 5.6 megawatts, accounting for about 2 percent of the total energy consumed by the KRC portfolio in 2020.
KRC has eight battery storage installations totaling four megawatts of capacity.
- Off-site renewables: KRC entered an agreement for a large off-site solar array under development that will, when complete, fully address the electricity consumption of its directly managed properties. Also, KRC procures 100 percent Green-e certified power (determined by the Center for Resource Solutions) for certain properties from several of its energy providers, including the Clean Power Alliance, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Peninsula Clean Energy.
- RECs: Though not completed, KRC’s offsite solar project purchases RECs on the company’s behalf, allowing KRC to convert to 100 percent renewable electricity across all properties.
- Carbon offsets: The remaining greenhouse gas emissions are offset by various emission reduction credits. The resulting carbon offsets are VCS certified.
Innovation in Building Operations
The Kilroy Innovation Lab pilots innovations to improve the portfolio’s performance and rapidly transform the larger commercial real estate market; KRC anticipates a return on its investment through reduced operating costs.
The firm partners with accelerators like Elemental Excelerator to reduce the risk involved in technology selection, identify the best companies to implement pilots, and scale the technologies throughout the portfolio.
Hudson Pacific plans to expand its use of sustainable technologies to further reduce carbon emitted through operations, in part through its existing partnership with Fifth Wall, the largest venture capital firm focused on technology-driven innovation for global real estate. Fifth Wall’s real estate investors adopt new technologies and benefit from partnerships, integration, contracts, and distribution deals.
As the cost and effectiveness of renewable energy systems improve, the price of green utility power declines, and technology advances, the market is poised for an increased appetite for carbon-neutral portfolios.